Torrance County ended months of wrangling last week when it approved three related documents related to solid waste disposal in the county.
All three were passed over the opposing votes of Commissioner Julia DuCharme.
The county commission passed a new contract with the Estancia Valley Solid Waste Authority, increasing its payment from about $800,000 a year to $1 million a year, which will now cover the actual cost of the service.
That contract must now be approved by the board of EVSWA, which will be having a meeting April 21 at 3 p.m. in Estancia; the contract is one of the agenda items, according to chairman David Saline, who represents Torrance County on the board.
According to county manager Joy Ansley, the county will pay $250,000 a quarter for the services provided in the contract, which include operation of eight transfer stations around the county and billing for the $60 per quarter cost to property owners.
The commission also passed a revised version of its solid waste ordinance, then passed a resolution setting discounts in fees which for some people will mean paying less.
Commissioner Jim Frost said those who prove they have vacant land will not have to pay the solid waste disposal fee levied by the county.
Others, including low-income people over 65, will pay $30 per quarter if they are approved for assistance elsewhere. Those who use a private hauler will pay $30 a quarter also.
The discounts had been provided for in the previous ordinance but were taken from there so that rates could be set by resolution instead of through the more cumbersome process for revising an ordinance, which includes public hearings, Ansley said.
The new contract means that Torrance County will have to come up with an additional $200,000 a year. Commission chairman LeRoy Candelaria said one possibility for funding is money coming into the county from two wind farm projects.
“If the county comes up with the money, it’s a way to give back,” Candelaria said. “We’re going to keep our Solid Waste Authority and keep our county clean—that’s my opinion.”
He said keeping the county clean would help with economic development: “If we have people who look at our area and see trash flying all over the place, no company is going to be interested in coming to that county.”
Candelaria said before the contract was approved that “The Solid Waste [Authority] was kind of carrying us on their back.”
Frost said the cost of 67 cents a day is affordable. “So many people don’t want to pay because they pay a private hauler. Then you have the other end of the spectrum that says we shouldn’t give any discounts at all.”
Frost said he thought the fee discounts were a good compromise.
DuCharme was the dissenting vote.
She said the county can’t know what the actual cost of the service is until it issues a request for proposals, or RFP. While she has advocated for a looser process, she was outvoted on the commission by her two colleagues, who want to see an “apples to apples” comparison in cost between EVSWA and others who might respond to the RFP.
“We really don’t know the cost [or the] market value of those services,” DuCharme said. “That’s why I want to go for RFP.”
DuCharme said she doesn’t know where the county will get the money to pay the additional $200,000 a year, and said she thinks the road department needs more money and so do emergency services like the sheriff’s department.
DuCharme said she also advocates a “mix and match” approach. “I think we have to have options there, not just one solution for everything,” she said.
A committee now has nine people, including two that were added over DuCharme’s objection at the commission meeting: Charlene Guffey, whose husband works for EVSWA, and Steve Jones, formerly magistrate judge and currently sitting on a committee to hire a replacement for EVSWA manager Joseph Ellis, who is retiring.
The committee is meeting Saturday, she said.
“Of course the county was happy with the current contract because they were getting a bargain,” Saline said, “as in the Solid Waste Authority was losing close to $200,000 a year on that contract.”
Saline said around the state that EVSWA is “one of the best ran for a rural area.”
The new contract, he said, means that the Solid Waste Authority can move ahead with construction of its next cell. “It’s going to secure the future and longevity of the landfill. We’ll be able to do the development we need for years to come. … To haul [trash] to Albuquerque or Tucumcari would really cost the county if that landfill wasn’t there. This is a service that is on the county to provide and is federally and state mandated. It should be part of your basic infrastructure.”